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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: December 5, 2019

Jane Thibodeau Martin

The Dream Christmas Tree

Last November as I admired the snowy woods around our rural house, I got this idea that I'd like a "rustic" Christmas tree. We always get real trees, but in Oklahoma we had to overpay for a tightly-sheared, scentless and dried-out specimen that had probably been cut on a northern tree farm well before Thanksgiving. Some artificial evergreen spray helped a little, but the daily pileup of green needles on the floor reminded me of the well-aged nature of our holiday spruce.

But last year we were still unpacking and settling in, so we ended up with a monster-sized, freshly cut beauty from the tree farm of friends. It looked and smelled amazing, but it was just too perfect for what my heart was seeking.

Over the summer, I tramped around our woods and identified two possible Christmas trees. The idea of cutting and dragging in a natural tree from our own land charmed me, and in the woods, these two looked good. They seemed full and classically triangle shaped in their native settings. And one was growing into the hardwoods crowded next to it, where it would always struggle for light and space.

So Saturday afternoon, with a major snowstorm brewing, Mike suggested we go get the tree. It was a fun walk in a light snow across frozen Hank Lake to the tree. The hush of the snowy woods was broken by a few quick cuts with the chainsaw and we were ready to head back, dragging a home-grown tree from the land I love so much.

I already knew the tree had one "flat side" where it was too crowded into the hardwoods to get light; no matter, that would be turned to the back. My first surprise was that the tree that looked small in the woods that surrounded it was almost as tall as last year's monster in the house, and clearly it was even wider. And it was pretty noticeable once it was in the stand that if my eyesight was still like it was in 1974, I could read a newspaper through the whole tree. No matter; this is the kind of tree our grandparents had; the kind my own parents thought was beautiful when they were wildly excited children themselves; and it was the absolute epitome of rustic.

I trimmed back some of the really long boughs that had reached far, far from the trunk in desperate search of light; picking out numerous crispy autumn leaves as I did so. Modern tree farms put trees on "shakers" to remove such debris, but I assumed the drag and haul across the ice and through the woods would serve the same purpose: I was wrong. After picking out a veritable leaf pile (with the help of three extremely enthused cats) I swept up a big pile of brown needles that fell from the inside of the tree. These needles shed naturally as the tree replaces them; apparently they hung on for dear life during the drag but now were surrendering to gravity in the warm environs of the house.

I got out many strings of my favorite blue lights and set to work. The task was challenging, because the long, soft boughs gave way beneath the weight of the lights, unlike the short, stiff branches of a sharply-pruned commercially grown tree. The finished effect was loopy and airy rather than artfully arranged. I am still debating if I am going to put any ornaments on the tree at all. No amount of ornaments would obscure the wide spaces between the branches, and many of my decorations would be too heavy for these delicate and flexible boughs.

No one visiting us is going to exclaim "What a BEAUTIFUL tree!" It won't be pictured in a glossy Martha Stewart magazine or featured in "Pinterest."

But when I turned out the house lights last night, the tree with softly glowing blue lights was a thing of absolute beauty. I just love it. It fulfills my vision of a rustic tree; it grew here in this soil where I am growing my own roots; and it evokes the true spirit of Christmas in me.

When it comes to having a rustic tree, I've nailed it.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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